The YA novel is written from the perspective of Quentin Jacobsen who has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. One night she climbs into his life dressed like a ninja and they set out for an all-night campaign for revenge. The next day Quentin arrives at school but there is no Margo. It would seem that she left clues for him to find, and to ultimately find her.
I read Paper Towns after reading The Fault in Our Stars and I have to be honest I had some trouble connecting with Quentin at the beginning of the novel. Quentin and Margo’s campaign for revenge was interesting but left me wondering whether there was a point to all the craziness. The novel takes a more serious tone after Margo disappears which is when I really started to enjoy Paper Towns.
See the whole picture
The first clue that Margo left for Quentin is the poem Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Quentin only reads the poem in sections (the parts that Margo highlighted) in the hope of finding a clue as to where Margo is. Quentin keeps referring back to the Walt Whitman poem as the book progresses. He later realised that he had to read the poem in its entirety to fully understand it. I found it to be such a clever metaphor for understanding people. You have to get the whole picture before deciding what that person is like and even then your interpretation of the person (or the poem) could be different to that of someone else. He had to get the whole picture of who Margo is in order to understand her and thus had to read the whole poem.
(Image by Philippe Put)
The idea of Margo Roth Spiegelman
Paper Towns also explains the idea of understanding how and why certain people act the way they do and to realise that they are unlikely to change. In one chapter Quentin describes one of his best friends Ben as an asshole. His other friend Radar tells Quentin:
“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves.”
– John Green, Paper Towns.
We have to let people be who they are. I don’t think it means that we should not expect the best of people but rather we should know them well enough to know which things matter and which things don’t.
Q falls in love with the idea of Margo Roth Spiegelman. He has this idea of what Margo is like but he soon finds out that the reality is much different. It is false to believe more of a person that what they really are. It creates these high expectations that a person can’t live up to.
Okay maybe this isn’t such a spoiler since the book is called Paper Towns but Q eventually finds Margo in a paper town called Agloe, New York. The fictional town of Agloe, New York was designed as a copyright trap. I didn’t know what a paper town was when I started the novel so I found the concept very interesting. It would seem that not only can people not be who they seem to be but whole towns can seem to be real when in actual fact they don’t exist. I could keep going about all the symbolism and metaphors in the book but it might be best to read it from John Green himself.
I found Paper Towns to be truly fascinating, tremendously entertaining and full of quotable quotes. I would definitely recommend it.